by Kevin Walsh

Forgotten NY correspondent

It seems like “mom and pop” businesses are closing at a rapid pace in NYC.  Small bakeries, pizzerias, hardware stores, donut shops have been victims. Remember what happened to the small video stores when Blockbuster came on the scene? Between changing technology and rising rents, the squeeze has been on for many years. Small laundromats are no different.  Take a look around the city and you’ll see one big difference in the laundromat industry. You’ll see more and more mega-laundromats springing up in many places, and you’ll see many storefront laundromats like this one at 180 Underhill Avenue, near Sterling Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. One of the largest , if not the largest laundromat chain is Clean-Rite.  Laundromats such as these have one thing many “mom and pop” locations  don’t have: parking for customers.
Changing technology now makes coin-operated washers and dryers obsolete. Are there any FNY fans who remember when a washer at a laundromat was 25 cents per load and dryers were 10 cents for ten minutes of drying time and of how you either brought lots of quarters and dimes, or got change from the attendant or nearest store? Now Clean-Rite and the other mega laundries use a system analogous to the MTA’s Metro Card. If you’re a first-time customer at Clean-Rite, you have to “purchase” a card, which is the same size as a MetroCard, for $2.00. Like the MetroCard, you add value to the card by inserting the card in a wall installed computer, along with cash in the appropriate slot. Before you use the washer or dryer, the card  must be inserted into a slot on the washer or dryer. After each insertion, funds are subtracted from the card. Oh, and one more thing: Since the attendant handles no cash, the machine that accepts cash to add value to your card also makes change for paper currency.

This system is advantageous for the laundromat for several reasons:
1.  Coins, which are heavy, cumbersome  and burdensome, don’t have to be handled by human hands, which help lower operating costs for the owner. 2. It prevents pilfering by employees who just can’t resist temptation to put a few coins in their pockets. 3.  Since the attendant doesn’t handle cash for the laundromat, security and safety is enhanced.


Alec February 9, 2016 - 1:46 pm

We bring our laundry in every two weeks to the place on our corner (Manton and Main Sts in Briarwood). It’s a coin op place, simply called “laundromat” with lots of quarters in the till and change makers in a couple of places. So that’s at least one still around.

ron s February 10, 2016 - 10:26 am

Coin-op was state of the art then-kind of like the Automat.

NY2AZ February 10, 2016 - 11:01 am

My now deceased parents owned an apartment in the Hilltop Village Co-op in Holliswood (Queens). The last time I was there (2007) to close the place out before sale after my father’s passing, I noticed that the on site laundry rooms used this card system. I agree that it’s a step in the right direction for efficiency & integrity.

Jeff B. February 10, 2016 - 11:25 pm

There’s a five or so year old Laundermat in Florida, NY that has lots of shiny, state of the art stainless steel washers and dryers that use quarters. No change machines. You get your change from the counter person who will also reconvert the the left over quarters into bills.

Geoff Siegel February 15, 2016 - 9:12 pm

Also the card systems break down less often. Bent and foreign coins are no longer a problem. Vandalism of the machines decreases because there are no coins in them. There are systems that take credit cards and there are other systems that you can call get a number to punch into the machine to refill your card. The future is here, accept it

Andrew February 21, 2016 - 12:28 pm

Coins would forever be the easiest, lowest cost “frictionless” way to pay for little things like laundry machines, lunch, transit fares, etc. if we were not stuck with pennies, nickels, and poorly designed dollar coins instead of say, $5, $2, $1 and $.25 coins. Banks and processing companies want it that way so they can skim a few percent off every transaction that happens. Future, schmuture.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.